In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh dispatched an expedition to find a suitable location to establish a settlement in North America. The expedition, led by Richard Greenville, first attacked Spanish shipping in the Carribean then on the way back to England explored Albermale Sound in North Carolina and recommended it for settlement.
In 1585, a small group led by Richard Grenville established a settlement. Grenville left Captain Ralph Lane on Roanoke Island, with around 75 men and instructions to build a fort. He promised to return with more men and supplies. Lane had poor control over his men. They fought the local Indians. When Sir Francis Drake stopped in on the colony on the way back to England and offered to take the settlers back, the settlers accepted.
A few weeks after the colonists left, Greenville returned with more supplies. Greenville found the fort intact, but with no settlers. He left 15 soldiers behind in the fort, while he returned to England to bring more settlers. 121 settlers, led by John White set sail in 1587 for the colony. Soon after landing White’s daughter gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first English baby North America. The colonists were attacked a number of times by Native Indians. They convinced White to return to England, to explain their situation and bring back additional support. White returned to England but before he could organize a relief mission, Spain attempted to invade England. Not until the Spanish Armada was defeated was White able to return. When he arrived in August 1590, he found the settlement deserted, with no signs of the settlers or of a struggle. The only clue as to the whereabouts of the colonists was the word “CROATOAN.” To this day, the fate of these colonists remains a mystery.